Reprising her role as a "rogue" political figure, former vice presidential nominee and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin offered her support Wednesday night for Tony Monetti in Missouri's battleground U.S. Senate race, emphasizing his military experience and role as an outsider in politics.
Monetti, a retired Air Force pilot from Warrensburg, is seeking the Republican nomination to run against incumbent U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat. He'll face frontrunner state Attorney General Josh Hawley in the August primary.
At a rally in downtown Kansas City, Palin and Monetti argued it was Monetti, not Hawley, who could beat McCaskill.
About 200 people filled a small area around the stage at KC Live! in the Kansas City Power & Light district, some donning red baseball caps emblazoned with "Ready for Monetti," reminiscent of the iconic "Make America Great Again" hats that emerged during Trump's presidential campaign. Palin and Monetti struck a Trump-like tone and drew on some of his signature slogans, including "drain the swamp" to argue an outsider can do a better job in Washington than an "establishment" politician.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
"We don't have time for that," Palin said. "The Show-Me State needs to show Washington how to blow up the swamp. Are you ready to send the stealth bomber himself to Washington, D.C. to do just that? Well, shoot — is Washington ready for Tony?"
Like Trump, Monetti represents an "anti-establishment, people-first" type of candidate, Palin said, calling him a "rare breed of cat."
"2016 was just the beginning of a battle for this country — for our solvency and for our sovereignty, for our children's future," Palin said. "It was just the beginning of a battle. There are many more battles ahead."
Monetti, too, cited his outsider status as a qualification for office and has appeared to position himself closely to Trump. He'll hold other rallies, he said, across the state.
"This is grassroots, baby," Monetti said as he thanked his staff.
Taking the stage in the summer heat, Monetti wore a bomber jacket he said reminds him where he came from. Throughout his remarks, he drew on his military experience as a motif, citing it even as he introduced his campaign priorities.
"This B-2 stealth bomber pilot is about to take you on a mission," Monetti said. "Are you ready?"
Monetti said the public policy "targets" he wanted to hit are mental health, adherence to the Constitution, military support, immigration and education.
On mental health, Monetti said he'd like to "lower prescription drugs" to address addiction and see tort reform. Addressing mental health and increasing security will do more to prevent school shootings rather than "taking away our guns," he said.
Monetti promised to protect the first and second amendments to the Constitution and ensure no pastors are "forced" to perform gay weddings in churches on his watch. He said Second Amendment rights would not be "infringed."
Immigration reform for Monetti — a son of "legal immigrants" who "got in line" — would include merit-based immigration, improvements to the system and a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, but he spoke against Trump's family separation policy that has brought bipartisan criticism.
"But we also have to remember that we are a nation of compassion and understanding," Monetti said.
Educators should teach Judeo-Christian values and step away from Common Core, Monetti said.
As part of his main "outsider" theme, Monetti promised he would serve only two terms and fight for term limits.
"We're done with ladder-climbers," Monetti said.
Monetti's relationship with Palin goes back to the early days of his campaign last year. He said he "took a gamble" and got a plane and a GoPro. In a video that shows him flying upside down over farmland, Monetti asks if viewers feel like the state and country are "upside down."
"I say we turn things around," Monetti says as turns the plane upright. "Let's give a B-2 stealth pilot, someone that's defended our country in times of battle, an opportunity to serve you again. I don't know about you, but I'm just sick and tired of what's going on in D.C."
The video earned Palin's endorsement as the "greatest campaign announcement ever" in a blog post on her website.
From there, Monetti said in an interview, Palin started following his campaign. A few months ago, Monetti's wife went to a political event and briefly met Palin.
“So she calls us up afterwards, and bottom line is she goes, 'I believe in your husband, and I’m willing to endorse him. So what do you need from me?' ” Monetti said.
In her remarks, Palin said that video caught her eye.
"I'm watching that ad a long time ago, and I thought, 'That guy — he's going to go somewhere. He's going to go rogue, in a good way,’” Palin said, referencing her book, “Going Rogue.”
Monetti said Palin was "doing this on a grassroots budget" but there may be logistics and travel fees associated with bringing her to Kansas City for the event. He said he didn't have the cost in front of him and did not respond to a follow-up email about how much — if anything — Palin charged the campaign and what that money paid for.
Monetti lags behind McCaskill and Hawley in fundraising, a measure Palin associated with the “establishment.” He raised $99,403 in the first quarter of 2018 to Hawley’s $1.5 million and McCaskill’s $3.9 million.
Other Republican candidates in the race include Austin Petersen and Courtland Sykes.